The Distribution and Use of Power in an Organization Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:06:56
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In an organization, the use of power comes in many shapes and forms. Hierarchical power is known to be the typical distribution of power in most organizations. For example, a business usually consists of a President, followed by a general manager, department manager and finally, the employees. Decisions occur in a hierarchical linear process, from the bosses down to the employees. Other forms of power in organizations can be more subjective. Power may not always take the typical hierarchical or down-the-ladder approach. That being said, the use of power can greatly affect desired outcomes.

In a study of Midwifery students, Kantek and Gezer argue that the use of power strategies in teacherstudent relationships affects students learning, school experiences, motivation, accomplishment, satisfaction, future career expectations, mood, and method of handling conflict (2010). The inappropriate use of power in an organization can result in immediate and irreparable effects. These effects can foster less than favorable work environments leading to unreceptive and unmotivated workers. Conversely, power can take a more inspirational or contagious approach.

This type of power is known as referent power. Peers and coworkers alike are influenced by individuals that possess this type of power. In this paper, a case study will be presented that identifies an organizational problem highlighting the effects of power. This will set in motion the opportunity for future research and finally, a group action plan that will address the five types of power in the workplace and provide solutions for the problem identified in the case study. Case Study

An organizational problem is identified as the opportunity to improve a situation in an organization. This could mean employee buy-in to company culture, race, class and gender issues, or an action plan to increase return on investment strategies. Once the problem is identified, a plan to mediate can ensue. The organizational problem that will be discussed in this paper and in future projects involves power in the workplace. The preceding case-study will represent a snapshot of the power struggle faced by employees of the organization.

Case study: An educational facility is the scene in which an administrator (Jane) instills fear and intimidation throughout the institution by using coercive power. This individual causes students and faculty members trepidation leading to educational, emotional and professional retreat. In this situation, one of the faculty members (John) is said to be trusted and influential with peers and students. This individual feels emasculated by the coordinator and is rendered ineffective in his daily tasks. Organizational Problem

The case study is a classic example of workplace bullying. Bullying is a cancer in an organization and should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. To deal with the organizational problem, there are a number of questions that must be asked: What is bullying in the workplace? Why does bullying occur in the workplace? How does bullying in the workplace affect workers? How can we stop bullying in the workplace? These questions must be addressed in the quest to answer one final question: How does bullying in the workplace affect overall morale? This question will form the framework of a group action plan to end workplace bullying as presented in the case study.

Referent Power

Power struggles in the workplace occur on a daily basis. There are five types of power that exist in organizational leadership. 1) Legitimate power comes with authority. 2) Reward power is attained through giving perks or bonuses. 3) Coercive power is the use of fear or threats to gain power. 4) Expert power comes with expertise, or skills. Lastly, 5) Referent power is achieved by being charismatic and influential. In the case presented above, the bullying is a type of coercive power. Gaski states the use of coercion clearly could reduce ones likeability, or referent power source (1986).

In other words, individuals who choose to lead by fear and intimidation will not gain the respect and influence in the workplace. This type of leadership can stifle creativity and charisma affecting the overall morale. Charisma is one of the traits of referent power. Kudisch et al. argues a follower submits to a leader because the follower identifies with the leaders personal qualities, and thus referent power, or the attribution of leader charisma, results (1995). Furthermore, not only will the bully lose their referent power or charisma, the general morale will be affected preventing other individuals from flourishing as influential leaders thus diffusing their referent power in the organization. Conclusion

When power takes such a leading role in organizations, it goes without hesitation the influence it can have. Conditional to the context, power can have strong persuasive properties, and when misused it can foster long-term disadvantages. Drawing from Merriam, Hansen contends that those wielding power can control others in varying ways, getting them to engage in activities not in the powerlesss best interest (2007, pg. 249). Individuals that are subjected to this type of coercive power will perform sub-optimally, and therefore it is of the utmost importance to mitigate the problem for the individual, and the organization alike.


Gaski, J. F. (1986). Interrelations Among a Channel Entitys Power Sources: Impact of

the Exercise of Reward and Coercion on Expert, Referent, and Legitimate

Power Sources. Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 23(1), 62-77.

Kantek, F., & Gezer, N. (2010). Faculty members use of power: midwifery students

perceptions and expectations. Midwifery, 26(4), 475-479.


Kudisch, J. D., Poteet, M. L., Dobbins, G. H., Rush, M. C., & Russell, J. A. (1995).

Expert Power, Referent Power, and Charisma: Toward the Resolution of a

Theoretical Debate. Journal Of Business And Psychology, (2), 177.


Merriam, SB., Caffarella. RS., & Baumgartner, LM. (2007). Learning in adulthood.

San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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